Feuz captures downhill crown
BEAVER CREEK — Beaver Creek is becoming West Switzerland.
Switzerland’s Beat Feuz repeated as the Xfinity Birds of Prey FIS World Cup downhill champion on Saturday. He edged out France’s Johan Clarey and Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr, who tied for second 0.41 seconds back.
Feuz’s win comes on the heels of teammate Marco Odermatt winning the super-G on Friday.
“It’s nice to have young and old athletes on the same team,” Feuz said. “We push each other.”
And the sound you just heard was a groan from Austria.
The Austrians and the Swiss are to Alpine skiing as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are to baseball, except for one rather salient detail.
On the hills throughout the world, the Swiss haven’t rallied from a 3-0 deficit in whatever is the Alpine equivalent of the American League Championship Series — yet.
The Nations Cup, emblematic of national-team success throughout a ski season, has been gathering dust in the Land of Mountains.
“Of course, Switzerland and Austria, they’ve won many races. They’ve had so many good skiers in the history of alpine skiing. For example, Beat,” Kreichmayr said to laughs after Saturday’s race. “Of course, I want to beat every guy and all the Swiss guys.”
The Austrian men have won it 26 straight years dating back to 1993. Feuz was 5 the last time Switzerland won the Nations Cup. Odermatt wasn’t born.
“There’s always the fight between the Austrian (guys) and the Swiss (guys),” Feuz said. “But I also compete against the world.”
The biggest question looming over the men’s World Cup is “What does the world look like after Marcel Hirscher’s retirement?”
One of the answers to that question could be Switzerland takes back the Nations Cup. Hirscher scored 1,546 points last season, and in 2018-19, Austria beat Switzerland, 6,102-4,650, or by 1,452 points.
Yes, one person can affect the Nations Cup that much. The U.S. Women’s Ski Team finished fourth in last year’s standings with Mikaela Shiffrin accounting for 2,204 of the American women’s 2,498 points.
As Red Sox and Cubs fans have said in the many years before their deliverance in 2004 and 2016, respectively, this could be the year for Switzerland.
Looking across the disciplines, the Swiss have Feuz, the World Cup downhill champion, and Mauro Caviezel in that discipline In super-G, those two Swiss skiers go against Kriechmayr and Matthias Mayer.
In giant slalom, the Swiss have Loic Meillard (fifth last year in the points) and Odermat (eighth), while the Austrians’ best-returning racer is Manuel Feller (14th).
In slalom, the Swiss have a powerful punch in Daniel Yule and Ramon Zenhaeusern while the Austrians counter with Marco Schwarz and Feller.
After Saturday’s downhill, Switzerland leads Austria, 906-771.
Old and new
• Ryan Cochran-Siegle, 27, was the exciting American surprise on Saturday. Wearing the No. 28 bib, Cochran Siegle was in the green early and had a shot at the podium before clipping a gate on Harrier, a slight miscue that cost him the podium.
Nonetheless, his fifth-place finish was easily the best World Cup result of his career. Previously, his best was 10th in a combined and a giant slalom.
“I knew in a lot of the key sections I was pretty on line and skiing well,” Cochran-Siegle said.
Cochran-Siegle arrived to a roar from the home crowd, but as he said, “There’s always a roar here, regardless of how you do.”
The compliment to the Beaver Creek fans aside, this is a big move in his career. The Vermont native has been right on the bubble when it comes to the top 30 in the points and the quality starting positions that accompany those numbers.
• Meanwhile, Austria’s Hannes Reichelt, 39 and the oldest racer in the field, was nearly on the podium, finishing fourth. He finished 2-hundredths of a second behind Clarey and Kriechmayr.
Reichelt has been in the top 10 in 18 races during his career at Birds of Prey.
With high winds, the International Ski Federation moved the start down to the edge of The Brink, eliminating a major gliding section of the course, The Flyway.
It’s an outdoor sport, and it happens. The course change seemed to favor the more technical racers.
As for France’s Clarey, he had no idea what to expect after Friday’s super-G in which he finished an unsightly 46th.
Finishing second in Saturday’s downhill made life better.
“I don’t have any explanation right now. I wasn’t skiing very well,” Clarey said. “My super-G yesterday was so bad. It was (such) bad skiing that today I said, ‘Push and we’ll see results.’ I was pretty surprised with second place and so happy.
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